Cloudy Aquarium Water
I read many people asking why the water in their aquarium suddenly turned to a white/grayish or green color. Cloudy water is one of the most common aquarium problem and probably one of the easiest to avoid. Today we will have a quick look at the problem, the causes and the solutions.
Why is my aquarium cloudy?
There is unfortunately no single answer, because there is no single cause. However we can usually pinpoint the cause of the problem based on the color and circumstances under which cloudy water appears.
If there are still no fish in the aquarium and the water gets cloudy immediately or within a few hours after filling the aquarium, the problem is most likely due to the aquarium ornament or gravel (in most case) that hasn’t been washed properly. When that happen, your only solution is to drain the tank and rince the gravel until the water runs clear.
Green water is caused by a free floating single-celled algae known as Eugleana or simply Green Water. It is one of the most ambulant forms of life and an essential part of the food chain. With the right conditions, these algae can be very prolific. The name aptly describes its appearance. Aquarists often encounter Green Water problems shortly after the aquarium is setup, in tanks with strong lights and/or after too large water changes or the use of chemicals that affects the biofiltration of the tank. To learn more about green water and how to solve it, please read Solving Green Water Problems In Freshwater Aquarium
The explosive growth of bacteria can sometime make the water turn to a greyish-white color. This problem usually occurs in newly setup tanks and should sort itself out as the tank matures. This should not harm the fish unless the amount of bacteria is enough to consume the oxygen in the tank (I have seen this a few times). When the problem occurs in a new tank and there are no fish in the tank, the easiest way to solve the problem is to wait. The problem will go away as the tank complete the nitrogen cycle. If the tank is new and there are fish in the tank, partial 20% water change, avoiding overfeeding and time will most likely solve the problem.
When a bacteria bloom occurs in an older tank, it is usually due to either overfeeding, insufficient filtration or too many fish in the tank. I have seen many tank where the problem came from all three causes. The first thing to look for is your filtration system. Is it working properly? Have you clean it recently? Many people clean their filter way too much or replace all the filtration media at once. As a result, the tank has to go through the cycling process again. When that happen, time and partial water changes are your best allies.
The second thing thing that could have created this problem in an old tank is doing a large water change the same day you’ve clean the filtration system. Here again, the tank will have to go through the cycling process again. Never clean your filter the same day you do a water change and never change all the water (20% to 50% water change is enough). Again, time and partial water changes will eventually solve the problem.
The third think to look for is your feeding routine. There should be no leftover food on the gravel and the fish should be able to eat it all within a minute (or less).
Finally, the last thing to look for is the amount of fish (or the size of the fish) in the tank. If there are too many fish or if the fish are too big, your filtration system alone might not be enough to handle the waste produced by the fish and keep your nitrogen cycle stable. In this case, your only choices are either to remove some fish or to get a better filter. It is usually best to remove some fish.
There are quite a few chemicals available on the market to help clarify your aquarium water. I don’t recommend relying on them because water clarifiers are only going to hide a problem that should be addressed. After many years in the aquarium maintenance business, I noticed that these chemicals will only work where the water would have cleared itself up in a few hours. Otherwise, these chemicals have little or no effect.
In most case, a cloudy water problem happen when the aquarium’s nitrogen cycle is weak or unstable and when the filter alone is not enough to process all the waste. Most cloudy water could be avoid if:
1) The aquarist let the aquarium go through the cycling period before to add fish.
2) The aquarist avoid overfeeding and overstocking the aquarium.
3) The aquarist follow a regular maintenance routine instead of waiting for months and then, suddenly do a major cleaning of everything and an extra large water change which could easily break the nitrogen cycle.
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